Watching, Thinking, and Thanking

I’m a technology buff.  That is, my day to day incorporates so many facets of techno-gizmos, I don’t think I can function without them.  Thanks to one of the greatest inventions ever made – the digital video recorder – something special in my life came to an end today.  As we celebrate the birthday of our nation today, I need to take a moment to mourn the passing of one of my favorite shows.

I am a big fan of Aaron Sorkin.  He’s the writer and creator of the SportsNight, The West Wing, and most recently, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  I am still flabbergasted by how a show as brilliant, witty, engaging and conversationally important as Studio 60 could fail to capture the ratings it needed to survive. Anyone familiar with Sorkin’s style will tell you that even though the dialogue in his work is loaded with topic after topic after topic of current issues, the arguments for both sides of these issues are presented in valid and many times humorous fashion.

Maybe I am in the minority when I say I enjoy being challenged to think while I am being entertained.  Maybe most viewers don’t want to have to analyze or reconsider their already established positions on matters such as race, politics and religion.  Some will say it’s not Hollywood’s job to have us question authority and ponder on matters of greater significance. However, as I sat on my couch watching the series finale of Studio 60, that is all I found myself doing.

The premise of last four episodes centered on two distinct plot lines.  The first dealt with the president of the network – played brilliantly and stunningly by Amanda Peet – being rushed to the hospital, delivering her baby via emergency cesarean, and then battling post-surgical complications.  The second plot dealt with the Airman brother of a cast member being captured in Afghanistan by Al Qaeda forces and held hostage.

For four episodes, we saw the anguish this event brought to the family and friends of the character.  We saw how they explored the possible use of a private kidnapping and ransom company (think Russell Crowe’s ‘Proof of Life’) to retrieve him.  The show presented heartfelt and emotional arguments as to what was the best course of action in that situation.   Over the course of the last four episodes, the show made me cry, made me laugh, but more importantly, it made me think.

It made me think about what I would do if I were in that situation.  It made me think about how far I’d be willing to go when it was a member of my family that was at risk.  It made me question how much of my beliefs and ideologies I’d abandon or dismiss altogether if the life of my own flesh and blood were on the line.

“They fund their jihad by selling heroine to the prostitutes on the sunset strip and by kidnapping people.  You can’t pay a ransom to those people.  Not ever!”

“Well, the way I see it, that’s my parents’ kid.”

I have two kids and I know there is nothing I wouldn’t do to keep them safe and out of harms way.  It’s easy to casually quote Gene Rodenberry and say the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  That is, of course, until the few include those you love.  I like to think I would not hesitate to lay down my life, jump in front of the proverbial train if you will, for the benefit of my family.  I also know that in that hypothetical situation, my mom would grab me by the collar, pull me back and take my place.  There is no emotion greater than the love you feel for your children, and it is a love that leaves us blind to rational thought or logical behavior.

It is this provocative response and intelligent struggle that makes me love what Sorkin has done in his previous three shows and his numerous screenplays – The American President, Malice, A Few Good Men, just to name a few.  I am truly sorry to see Studio 60 come to an end.  I will miss the characters and their well-timed banter.  I will miss the humor-laced dialogue and all those moments when I’d hit the rewind button on my DVR just so I can see it again.  Ultimately, I will miss the feeling of cerebral satisfaction after having watched a show and knowing my brain got a bit of a workout.

Like this blog entry, thinking usually leads to action.  Given all we have going on in our world, from a war against terror to individuals’ battles against cancer and everything else in between, I like to think we can always stand to do a little more pondering, reflecting and discussing of the issues that are important to us. Our fore-fathers were not complacent in  pursuing their beliefs and affecting change.  They established the foundation that grants us the freedoms we enjoy today.  This includes the ability to be free thinkers and free doers.  On this Fourth of July, cherish this freedom, celebrate it, and take the time to think about everything that is important to you.


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